|★ HARDWARE ★ PERIPHERIQUES ★ MAESTRO ★|
|Audio - Maestro|Amstrad Action)||Hardware Peripheriques|
Maestro comes well-packed in an expanded polystyrene pack, with a full-colour sleeve giving installation details. It consists of a small grey amplifier box, two metal-grilled speakers, a pair of headphones, connecting leads and a demonstration software cassette.
The amplifier has independent volume controls for each channel and a push switch to control speaker or headphone output. Leads are attached to the back of the box for power input and output, and signal input from the micro. There are also two DIN-type speaker sockets which take the plugs from the speakers. The amplifier is well-made, only being let down by the rather flimsy mounting of the volume controls the knobs wobble when you turn them.
The speakers themselves are solidly mounted in plastic cases, each provided with a metal bracket which acts as a stand. The speakers can be tilted in these cradles to provide a degree of directional adjustment. The drive units are dual-cone, which means that the bass and treble frequencies are reproduced by different parts of the same speaker. Not quite as good as having separate speakers for each range, but better than the single-cone type. Overall they are very similar to the type of speaker provided with in-car stereo systems.
The headphones, which are like those supplied with personal stereo cassette players, are comfortable and very light to wear. They plug into the front of the amplifier box with a short lead. The length of this lead and the input lead from the Amstrad restricts where you can put the amplifier so that it's only really possible to put it close to the micro's case.
Positioning of the speakers is quite important, as they shouldn't be too far apart if you want a good stereo 'image'. Don't put them too close to the monitor or TV, though, as the strong magnets can distort the screen image. For the same reason, it's not a good idea to put them too close to a disk or disk drive. The speakers are supplied with screws to attach their brackets to the wall, and this is probably a good way to mount them.
The quality of sound that Amstrad micros can produce is very good, and this is well reflected in the standard of output from the Maestro. The sound is clear and clean, with little distortion. While not up to hi-fi standards it is subjectively very good, and makes the old CPC sound like a different machine. The demo cassette provides a couple of good examples, in stereo. The Amstrad's stereo output is divided into three channels, one for left, one for right and the third split halfway between the two, so appearing in the centre.
I tried several cassettes, including Winter Games which came out well, and the library of tunes provided with Rainbird's Music System. The Music System puts the background rhythms on one side, rather than in the centre, which gives a strange effect, but it's still heaps better than the mono output of Arnold on his own.
When you're not playing anything through the Maestro, there is a fair amount of background hum. This is more noticeable through the headphones, but under normal circumstances it's not enough to be annoying.
The Maestro represents excellent value for money. Ifs a very attractive peripheral for any Amstrad CPC micro, and as the advertising blurb says, it 'works with ALL add-ons'.
All, that is, except the Amdrum. This is rather a special case though, as the Amdrum expects to be connected into your hi-fi and is fitted with an RCA phono plug which isn't directly compatible with the stereo jack on the Maestro'3 input lead. But it shouldn't be hard to cobble together a connecting lead if you want to use this setup. The Amdrum's output is only in mono.
In all other respects, I can thoroughly recommend the Maestro.